In the latest KNOW Identity Digital Forum event, we tackled how digital identity is aiding in safely reopening the global economy. From solutions focused on robust contact tracing in healthcare to ensuring remote learning can successfully be implemented with privacy built-in, digital identity is taking on unique challenges in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Highlights from these conversations were abundant but some important takeaways included:
- Impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic are being felt globally and cross-industry. Digital transformation is happening at an ever-quickening rate and identity has been proven to be the underpinning to many solutions
- Implementing contact tracing has been trialed in several geographies, but low trust and therefore adoption among consumers is rendering less useful products. Lack of medical understanding of re-infection rates is also delaying immunity credentials from gaining traction. Motivating users to enroll ‘for the greater good’ is the biggest challenge seen thus far.
- Remote education challenges have overlapping needs with other authentication use cases, except there are incentives for the student user to commit fraud themselves. Biometrics and liveness detection technologies can combat much of these exam proctoring hurdles.
In the absence of a vaccine or other treatments, monitoring and mitigating exposure to the virus is paramount for containing its spread. But how can governments and health agencies conduct this sort of surveillance without sacrificing the privacy of its citizens? In the first session, Contact Tracing & Identity’s Role in Reopening the Economy, we spoke with Robin Tombs, CEO at Yoti, and Nathan Rowe, Chief Product Officer at Evident ID, on how their respective solutions are tackling the challenge of contact tracing globally.
OWI: As we know, COVID is still raging across the globe. How might we begin safely bringing folks back to work, back to school…make physical spaces accessible again? What are some of the challenges are you encountering?
Evident ID: Health information is of the utmost sensitivity and there’s this opportunity to help our customers and help a new customer base manage and control the risk associated with COVID infections, impact to the workplace, impact to families, and do it in a way that actually helps them achieve regulatory compliance and privacy of the information. Given what we know about the fleeting nature of COVID immunity today, it’s likely that assigning immunity credentials to individuals is still a very long way off. A few states in the U.S. have released privacy-focused COVID solutions for tracking purposes, but they all have very limited adoption. Canada, which has traditionally been a pioneer in privacy regulation, has developed a privacy-focused app called COVID Alert that can let people know of possible exposures before any symptoms appear.
Yoti: People and not trusting that the advice they may get from the contact tracing is actually reliable. They’re not keen to quarantine in the U.K. for 14 days when there’s probably only a 30 percent chance that they may actually have COVID. So, a lot of people haven’t downloaded the app in the U.K. and of course, if not many people download the app, you get into a bad cycle where the app contacts you do a particularly good job, but not very many people use it.
Evident ID: These systems are going to feel like a burden to the end-user. There has to be a good bit of messaging and communication to the population to ensure they feel motivated to adopt the technology. It has to be clear that [they] are doing this for the greater good and the safety of those around them. Similarly to the argument of why you wear a mask. The mask is not to protect you, it’s to protect others. And, you know, if people can have the right mindset, it’s just going to make that easier.
Yoti: The biggest need for tracing is to protect people and therefore the industries most likely to really need it are those with the highest rates of interaction and closest proximity range. If you’re an individual interacting with many different people through the day, then not only do you have a greater risk of infection personally, but you carry the same risk of spreading the virus to others. Retail, travel and transport, health care, deliveries, large business hubs and sites are obvious – but the virus will jump to anyone given the chance and anywhere so we can’t apply solutions like tracing to one part of society while ignoring others. The approach needs to be joined up.
OWI: Looking to the future, you know, in many ways we have seen COVID as driving organizations that had been lagging behind the curve in terms of thinking about digital identity. Do we think that this could serve as a catalyst for greater both enterprise and consumer adoption of digital identity platforms? Or do we think that folks are going to fall back on old habits and methods once we no longer need to be locked down?
Yoti: It will be a dramatic change. The U.K. has already changed quite a few regulations where I think otherwise they would have taken another several years to do so. People are very cautious and conservative. But in the last six months, regulators have already made some very significant changes. There’s much more adoption of e signing for all sorts of things. Now, it’s possible that they will go back, but I think a huge number of regulators are now being given the chance to test out things that normally they would take a long time to take a risk on.
Evident ID: Regulation and law are always slow to adopt technology, some of it is they’re not as plugged in there. They’re more risk-averse. They don’t want to have this thing change too fast. They don’t have the option right now. The acceleration of telemedicine has been a great example. I mean, that wasn’t just regulators: insurers would not pay for telemedicine. In the same way, they now have to. I think what you’ll see is clearly the regulation has turned upside down on its head, but also this massive change in both the consumer and the employee expectation of what can be done and what is possible.
Shifting gears from public health to education, OWI was joined by Blake Hall, CEO of id.me, and Reinhard Hochrieser, VP of Product Management at Jumio, to cover School’s Out: Fool Proofing Remote Education. As communities remain closed due to the pandemic, academic institutions are grappling with the tough reality of transitioning in-person classrooms online. In a remote learning environment, how do you verify the identity of each student completing their coursework and online exams? Education is only one of the many industries where remote proofing is suddenly an immediate imperative.
OWI: Education is in uncharted territory with remote learning, unlike businesses where work-from-home and remote access have largely been adopted and onboarded by the workforce. What are you seeing are these challenges that schools are coming to you with and where do you see the biggest points of friction and discomfort right now in terms of transitioning from an offline to an online educational space?
Jumio: I think everyone remembers how we received an education. We sat in a classroom and the teachers just spread information. I think that’s what’s changing, and not just because of COVID. Of course, that’s accelerating the change. But we’ve seen that change over the last one to two years, that more universities and online education platforms are reaching out to us not just to implement a way to do identity verification, but to get guidance about how to do it because there are so many different ways. Online education doesn’t just mean that you offer material online. You need to think about how you onboard the classmates or the attendees. How do you share grades? How do you offer exams? Do you want to combine it with existing proctoring services?
Id.me: Education really crosses verticals. We’ve seen a number of DMVs that need to give people driver’s license exams and to do that remotely now that the field offices are closed. There’s a variety of different ways to have a workflow that’s secure. But there are some unique elements to education in that most identity verification. Typically you’re focused on preventing third-party fraud, somebody else trying to take over your identity. In education, it’s often the opposite, where the test taker has an incentive to let a smarter friend or associate or somebody they’ve paid take the test for them. You really have to make sure that that person is who they’re claiming to be.
OWI: There are unique challenges to the educational market: the fact that there may be children involved or those under 18 that can’t be expected to have a driver’s license or other I.D. and then to try to be as inclusive as possible from a technology perspective. Equity and education, obviously a major goal for just about everyone. How can we make sure that we are not excluding pupils who maybe don’t have the latest smartphone, who don’t have the latest webcam, who don’t have a super high-powered computer? What are those barriers and how are you seeking to drive inclusive and address the challenges of making sure that these solutions can accommodate as many people as possible, regardless of their income and technological or government-issued credential levels?
Jumio: We’re addressing that particular problem over the last couple of years by providing a real omnichannel solution, which means regardless if a student is using the latest and greatest iPhone or Android device or a computer with a weaker webcam, we can support all those different use cases to really ensure that each and everyone can benefit from our services. It doesn’t matter if the enrollment happens on the phone or on the computer without technology. This supports the growing demand for flexibility in regard to online education.
Id.me: There’s still a wide variety of folks who are using knowledge-based authentication, based on credit history to try to verify folks and that that modality is completely outdated, especially when it comes to inclusion and security. The move in the market has been toward using possession-based modalities like your device with corroboration against the telecom possession of a government I.D. From an inclusion standpoint, we lead with that device verification. Phone ownership is way, way higher than credit records, so it’s a more inclusive modality. It’s also way more secure because your phone is talking to your telecom that we’re talking to a cell phone tower every eight seconds. If you think about that versus like the credit or data broker-based methods, it’s way more inclusive.